Yesterday you turned eight and today is the last day of school before we start holiday break. I’m starting the break with a bit of a “fun headache” from the epic tale that was your birthday. I know having a birthday so close to Christmas can be a bummer (just ask your dad), so I do my best each year to make it extra joyful. This year was supposed to be more chill, since we only do parties every other year, but a late night stroke of genius changed all that when I sat up in bed and thought “We should take the kids to Winterfest at World’s of Fun for Tate’s birthday!” You were thrilled with this idea, so last night we closed down the amusement park with two of your best friends and our family. You were the only ones on the rides by the end of the night, as it was under 30 degrees and most of the park visitors had lost feeling in their toes (including myself and your dad), but it was worth it to see how completely happy you were to have this special celebration.
You are simultaneously goofy and very serious, which is sometimes challenging as a parent. You’re incredibly sensitive and intense, and your moods are EXTRA. You are often the happiest kid in the room, but just as often you can become withdrawn or upset, and teaching you how to feel your feelings, work through them, and come to a resolution has been one of my main goals as your mother. I don’t want you to stuff any of those emotions, but you also can’t wallow, and that’s a hard lesson for me at 36-year-old, let alone you at EIGHT.
This year we dealt with some real fear for the first time as I watched you experience episodes of anxiety. Your fear of thunderstorms and tornadoes spiraled to a point where we were having a hard time managing them. I am so grateful we were able to find a wonderful child therapist who has taught you (and me!) so much about fear and anxiety. I am incredibly thankful we are able to deal with some of these issues now, instead of waiting until you are an adult and so much of your thinking is solidified. I’m so proud of how you’ve handled these obstacles this year and how hard you’ve worked to overcome them. I know this is not a straight path, but what we’ve learned this year will help both of us for the rest of our lives.
Right now your loves include: sports (soccer, basketball, swim team, baseball and recently you’ve started talking about hockey too), cats, your friends, video games, making mama laugh by making derpy faces, and reading. That last one is HUGE for us, since we started this year way behind on your reading abilities. But in the last three or four months, it all finally clicked for you and now you’re reading for pleasure whenever you can find a minute, just like your sister. Your favorite books are Dogman, Catstronauts and the Ranger the Dog series.
Tate, you are bold and brave, often overcoming fears just to prove others wrong. You strive to be the best at everything you do, and want others to do the same. You are kind and sensitive, wearing shirts with sloths and kittens on them because they are “just so cute,” inviting a girl in your class to sit at the special table on your birthday because she was having a bad day, and loving to snuggle whenever the opportunity allows. I am so grateful for you and how you’re growing, learning and changing every day.
A few weeks ago you came into my bed to snuggle and chat, and for the first time in ages, you fell asleep in my arms. I couldn’t believe how big you felt, and I realized it won’t be very long until you will no longer EVER fall asleep curled up in my hug. I felt a bit of sadness for future me, who will miss those moments so much, but then I looked at your face with your long eyelashes fluttering on your cheeks as you dreamed, and decided instead of being sad, I wanted to fully be present in that moment. That way, even when you’re a giant, smelly teenager, I’ll still have that memory to pull me back to these wonderful moments of parenting my sweet eight-year-old.
I love you, Tater.
There is something pretty amazing about finding a creative outlet and losing yourself in it. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had lightening strike twice before in this capacity. First, when I started this blog in 2004. What began as a way for me to let off steam, share with friends and family, and improve my writing voice quickly became one of the best parts of my life. I found myself writing into all hours of the night, only stopping when I could no longer keep my eyes open. I wasn’t writing for the likes or clicks, but because I simply enjoyed it.
Later, I found a similar peace in photography. I would sit at my computer as my family slept, learning new editing techniques and taking online classes. Photography felt like a puzzle that I was learning how to put together. I couldn’t afford to go back to school full time, but I could use every tool the internet put at my fingertips to be the best I could be. At the time, I wasn’t charging for my skills or take photos of others, but instead just doing it for the pleasure of creating. It was a wonderful time in my life.
It’s been a few years since I took these creative endeavors and made them into my career, and while I wouldn’t change a second of it, I do often miss that feeling of joy and freedom that comes from just making something because you feel called to do so, with no thought of outcomes.
I have been noodling around the thought of creating a podcast for a few years, but I never found an idea that really lit me up. I didn’t want to remake any of the amazing podcasts already out there, I wanted to do something new. However, I’ve been lucky enough to have been interviewed for a few awesome podcasts, so I had baseline knowledge of what I needed to make one of my own. And out of nowhere, this past summer (while in the shower because all good ideas come while I’m in the shower) I had finally had an idea for a podcast that I couldn’t shake. You see, that’s how I know a creative inspiration is one that MUST be carried out…when I just can’t get it out of my head. Usually the plans come and go, but this one just kept cropping up in my mind. So I decided to sit down and do some research…how does one create a podcast?
Turns out, my old friend “The Internet” still holds a lot of keys to the mysteries of creativity, and I found a wealth of information to get me started. Now, usually this leads to me becoming overwhelmed and giving up. But not this time!
I slowly started working on this little idea until it became a reality. And today, I’m sharing it with you!
Never Not Grateful is a podcast about how gratitude can change your life for the better. One of the most significant tools I’ve used in the last five and a half years into my recovery has been cultivating a daily gratitude practice, and I realized this is something that’s not as popular outside of the recovery world. I wanted to share how gratitude has changed my life, and how anyone can use a gratitude practice to make themselves happier and healthier. Of course gratitude makes us feel better emotionally…that’s obvious! But did you know that by consistently practicing gratitude, you can improve your mental and physical health as well? It’s true! Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude sleep better, have more energy, are more alert, live longer and are more optimistic. So why not give it a shot?
Never Not Grateful is a podcast that will dive deeper into how to create a gratitude practice, how to cultivate it daily, and how to surround yourself with people who encourage thankfulness. We will be talking about specific, simple things you can do TODAY to change your life for the better. I will also be interviewing inspiring people about how they have used gratitude to get through life’s challenges. I have plans to do episodes on motherhood, politics, grief and much more.
This is the first time in a few years that I’ve felt the creative pull from beyond…like I couldn’t rest until this idea was made and put forth into the world. However, I am feeling a little apprehensive. So far the only people that have listened to Never Not Grateful have been those in a trusted circle. It has been received with such joy and support, I have been overwhelmed, and part of me wants to keep it close so it can’t be ruined by critiques and unkindness. But then I remember the whole point of making this thing was to encourage more people to share and cultivate gratitude, and that won’t happen if I keep it all to myself. I hope you enjoy this little project and that it helps you find a little more gratitude in your day.
You can follow Never Not Grateful on Instagram, and listen via most podcast apps, including:
*If you don’t see your podcast app listed here, try searching for Never Not Grateful within the app itself and it should come up. Click the video below to hear a short preview of our first episode. If you enjoy Never Not Grateful, please rate and review in your podcast app, as that’s the best way for new podcasts to get seen by more people!
Back in May, after a couple of months of overwhelm and anxiety surrounding my social media use, I took a step back and decided to take a break from all social media. What was supposed to be a few days or a week, quickly added up to almost two months away from Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back! But the nature of my work and my advocacy means that I have to have some social media presence, and I know that FOR ME, completely abstaining wasn’t the goal. My social media break was about evaluating how it was affecting me so I can use these tools in a way to enhance my life, not to quit them all together.
I learned so much during my break, and I wanted to share some of this new knowledge with all of you. If you’re worried about your social media consumption or behaviors, I think these tips might help you figure out a solution!
- Take a week to look at you social media behaviors and track them somewhere. I have a bullet journal where I keep everything, but you could use the notes app on your phone if that works better for you! I also installed the Moment App, which tracks how much time you spend on your phone during the day, and can break down what apps you’re spending the most time on. This was a HUGE eye opener for me, as a person who is perpetually “busy” and often feels overwhelmed with all I have to do. Once I literally saw how much time I had been wasting scrolling social media, I knew a break was in order!
- Do your research! Two books that really helped me were How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price and Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time by Victoria Dunckley. The latter was actually a book I picked up as a parent of screen-obsessed kids (more on that soon), but I found a lot of into that was pertinent to my own screen-time habits. The first was an awesome, step-by-step plan of how to cut down on your screen-time as an adult, with lots of tips and hacks (like apps that will block other apps so you can’t use them at certain times of the day!). I highly recommend them both. This podcast (iTunes, Stitcher) actually came out while I was on my social media break, but I thought it was so great I wanted to share it too. It’s a really emotional conversation with Brooke White, the singer and creator, who makes her livelihood on social media…but had decided she needed a break.
- Delete all social media apps from your phone. You guys, I tried to keep the apps on my phone so I could still check my work social media and everything for August Light Studio, but it was impossible for me. I kept wanting to “just check in” and see what people were up to. In the end, deleting the apps and then checking work social on my desktop was the only solution and it worked for me.
- Make sure you let friends, family and followers that you’ll be on a hiatus. I do a lot of my advocacy work through social media, and a ton of my kids’ school activities are coordinated through it as well. If I just cut off everything without notice, I knew I’d miss out on party invites for the kids and DM’s that needed to be attended to. So I put together a “Social Media Break” post for each social network and posted with my plans, along with ways for people to get a hold of me if needed. I also reached out to friends and family to let them know they should text or call, rather than message or tweet.
- Make a list of a few things you’d like to accomplish during your break. I had been struggling to find the time to complete my family photo book from 2017 or submit for a project I’d really been wanting…so those went on my list and I was able to complete both! I also had a few other goals (read some real books, work on content for the blog, get some new clients, etc.) that went on there as well. It made me feel great to know I was using my “free time” wisely and to make my life more full.
After two months away, I felt refreshed and excited about social media again. However, I didn’t feel that way until that point. Earlier on in my break, I wasn’t sure if I’d EVER go back. But I reached a point where I knew I could moderate my social media in a way that was healthy for me and my family. If I reach a point of overwhelm again, I will probably take a mini break before it gets too bad in order to reset. I’ve also evaluated how much I’m posting and when. I no longer post to social media when my kids are around (I save the photos and videos to my phone and then upload them later), and I’m posting only a couple of times a week, instead of daily. I’ve also decided to focus most of my energy on one social media outlet (Instagram!) that I enjoy, instead of spreading my time to all of the platforms. I still have Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but they are fairly specialized. For example, I mostly use Twitter for my advocacy and political work, while LinkedIn is all career, such a posts from August Light Studio or client work. I also still don’t have most of the platforms on my phone, and instead post when I’m sitting down at my computer (other than Instagram, which is difficult to post to from a desktop). This helps me create a separation and makes me much more intentional with my posting and scrolling. So far, it’s working for me, but I’m definitely going to continue to evaluate and make sure I feel good…social media shouldn’t make you feel like crap!
Have you ever thought about taking a break from social media? If you have done it, I’d love to hear how you felt about the process? And if you haven’t, I’d love to know why not? What’s holding you back from taking a break? Or do you not feel you need one?